Endocrine Disruptors in Beauty & Skincare Products
Q: What’s an Endocrine Disruptor?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can disrupt the endocrine system - easy enough, right? Well, the endocrine system is the technical term for your hormonal system. This system involves your brain, sex organs (ovaries or testes), thyroid gland, pancreas, and adrenal glands - just to name a few. It's a complex set of organs that talk to one another with the use of hormones so that cells from one part of the body can make sure that cells in another part of the body perform optimally and so that you feel great!
Q: Why Care About Endocrine Disruptors?
Now, why care about endocrine disruptors? As we said before, they are chemicals that disrupt your hormonal system. When these chemicals are introduced into your blood stream via absorption through the skin, inhalation, or the gut, they can bind to hormone receptors in cells and mimic estrogen, copy the action of testosterone, or reduce thyroid function - just to name a few potential actions. And, when this happens, it can increase risk for infertility, altered sexual behavior, hormone-related cancers, and cause chronic conditions (like hypothyroidism). So, that is why you should care!
7 Endocrine Disruptors Commonly Found in Skin Care & Beauty Products
Studies have found paragons to be weakly estrogenic in vitro, meaning that it can attach to estrogen receptors and lightly act like estrogen. One specific type of paraben, called butyl paraben, has been shown to affect reproduction in animal models. Where it is commonly found: sunscreens (particularly methylparaben).
Phthalates have been shown to have negative impacts on the reproductive tract in humans, especially in men. Studies show that phthalates can reduce semen quality and can negatively impact male genital development. According to literature, phthalates can do this by inhibiting the action of testosterone in the body (aka they have anti-androgenic properties). In pregnant women exposed to high amounts of phthalates, it has been shown that it can cause miscarriage and pregnancy complications. Where it can be found commonly include fragrances, bar soap, shaving cream, and lipstick.
BPA has been shown to have estrogenic properties. Where it can be found include soaps, lotions, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, nail polish, and sunscreen.
Studies show that synthetic musks can have estrogenic effects. Fragrances to look for are musk xylene, musk ketone, galaxolide, tonalide, and celestolide. Beyond causing estrogenic effects, fragrances can cause other health effects, such as eczema, asthma, asthma exacerbations, and headaches.
Side Note: Fragrances can be indicated as "synthetic" or "natural". note that some natural fragrances can be chemically synthesized, which might smell like the real, natural thing. However, if you look at it under the microscope, the synthetic form will have a different shape compared to the natural form, which can cause different effects in the body compared to natural fragrances.
Studies show that glycol ethers can reduce sperm motility and also negatively impact red blood cells. Where it can be found include sunscreens, shaving creams, and face lotion.
There are 3 types of cyclosiloxanes - d4, d5, and d6. studies show that the d4 type is weakly estrogenic and the d5 type has been shown to cause cancer in animal models. Where it can be found include sunscreens and shaving creams.
Benzones have been shown to have estrogenic properties in animal models and have been implicated in negatively impacting their reproductive abilities. Where it can be found most commonly is sunscreens.
Hopefully this makes shopping for clean beauty and skin care products easier for you and also helps you understand why clean products are necessary. Remember, what we put on our skin will usually get absorbed and end up in our blood streams. Studies actually show that some sunscreen ingredients can end up in the breast milk of lactating mothers! So, live naturopathically as possible to help prevent chronic conditions, especially hormone-related ones.
If you want to know how you can rid your body of endocrine disruptors (especially when you have hormonal imbalance issues) with naturopathic medicine, schedule a consultation with me at Jupiter Naturopathic Wellness to see how I can help you out. The great thing about naturopathic medicine is that we see your symptoms as a signs from your body to find the root cause of your ailments. So, we will look at things beyond the inner workings of your body and look at what environmental exposures in your house, in your office, or from your hobbies that could be contributing to your symptoms.
Beyond the list above, another great resource to check out is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It's a super cool website where you can find the most up-to-date information on personal product ingredients and their impacts on the body.
About the Author
Dr. Bryant Esquejo is a California-licensed naturopathic doctor practicing in the Silver Lake neighborhood in Los Angeles, California. You can book an appointment with him here and follow him on social media here.
He received his Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from San Diego State University in 2012 and his naturopathic medical degree from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2016. In his practice, he aims to help patients achieve optimal health and wellness by focusing on hormonal and thyroid health; adrenal dysfunction and stress-related chronic fatigue; gastrointestinal health; anxiety and depression; and nutrigenomics. He uses a variety of integrative modalities to assess and treat patients, such as bioenergetic muscle testing; advanced and basic functional laboratory assessment; therapeutic nutrition; lifestyle medicine; nutraceutical, vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplementation; intravenous micronutrient therapy; and energetic medicines, such as constitutional homeopathy and flower essences.
This article was previously published on Dr. Esquejo’s blog.
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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. There are no financial ties to any supplement companies, pharmaceutical companies, or to any of the products mentioned in this post. This post is not meant to treat, cure, prevent, or diagnose conditions or diseases and is meant for educational purposes. As always, please consult your doctor before trying any new treatments or supplements.